Artist Interview #3: Buck Weber

Recently I had the chance to visit with a real living treasure, nationally known painter and Waukesha native Buck Weber! Weber is known for his skill at copying photographs exactly the way they look. He calls himself a fauvist impressionist, a tradition that is really old! Weber paints The Packers, The Brewers, horses, portraits of children, portraits of old people, no nudes or fruit, flowers, farmers, bicycles, NASCAR, cottages, landscapes, Waukesha hotspots, the Pope that died, the new Pope, African Americans playing jazz in energized atmospheres of color, what things may have looked like in Victorian times, images that look kind of like Windows clip-art, images that could be used in advertising, images that kind of look like Windows clip-art and could be used in advertising, Disney characters, and of course self-portraits. I sat down with this nationally recognized artist for a fun little chit-chat about his work!

Weber painting in his studio

Cw: So as one of the first artists from Waukesha to have his own website…
Bw: Let me just stop you right there Calvin, for a moment, if you would, and let me just say it is an honor to be here today. By some miracle I sit before you because I was terminally ill and was given 6 months to live by doctors. When I was in the hospital waiting to die, I picked up paint and brush for the first time and found a real magical connection. Like Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, magic flowed out of my paint wand and out onto my canvases. I had realized I wasted my whole life away promoting other people’s products when I should have been promoting my own. When I found out later that I wasn’t going to die I decided to take on painting as my new career and not paint about the experience I had at all. Every Sunday I pick up my brushes, paints, canvases, easels, painter’s tape, jars of mediums, palette, palette knives, rubber gloves and I paint, every Sunday.

Cw: Every Sunday?
Bw: Every Sunday, right after Church. I have a new lease on life.

So this brush with death, it was pretty recent?
Bw: Yes it was about 15 years ago.

Weber's portrait of that Pope that died recently.

Cw: Wow, so tell me a little about your method of painting.
Bw: Well first I think about what I should paint. Sometimes it helps if I look at trees in a field or look at flowers really up close. If that doesn’t spark up any inspiration I’ll watch one of my favorite sports teams on TV. Occasionally I’ll type in ‘painting’ on Google images and see what I can find out on there. My final and last resort, and this is kind of a trade secret so don’t include this within the article. (whispers) I look through stock photography catalogs for some hints. Then after I have an idea going I go shopping for materials. I usually buy ever color that I need to create my painting because I strive to remain true to the impressionist motto which is ‘use color straight from the tube………….every time’. I usually buy a lot of ‘skin’ color for people’s skin. I also work big, around 8” by 10” typically. This size helps me create my world renowned moody atmospheres. My signature, of course, is the most important part of any of my paintings but can only be applied at the end. This must take up at least 1/8 of the painting to get some name recognition going. Finally I slap a business card in the corner just in case the viewer missed the signature. I’ll then make like three more of the same painting but with different colors in case somebody liked the original but wanted a blue one or something. When I display them I’ll make a laminated informational sheet and place it next to my new series. The placard will have a picture of myself painting the paintings as well as explaining my brush with death and pretty much everything I just told you now.

Cw: Speaking of death, some critics of the rogue Waukesha art scene have said that ‘If painting really is dead then Waukesha is the graveyard’. How would you respond to this?
Bw: If they’re right then I’m the Grim Reaper. Haha, just kidding (laughs). No, but really the Waukesha art scene and its artists are doing wonderful. I ’m represented by 4 galleries in downtown alone. I show in the Oldcunt gallery, The Pottery Hut, Beadworld, and Frameluck’s ‘Framing gallery with Frames’. Also Last fall on the PBS auction several of my colleagues and I decided to put our stuff out there for sale so we could be seen on TV in case anybody happened to miss us in downtown Waukesha. The people at PBS were so delighted by our work that they they decided to send Midwestern stand-up comedian and Time Warner Cable State Fair Tent Slave John McGivern to feature us in next month’s Arts Digest, a new PBS show about the arts in Wisconsin.

John McGivern...

Cw: So what have you been up to lately?
Bw: Well I just finished a commission in a new movie theater where I printed some murals.

Cw: Wait, printed murals?
Bw: Yeah, originally they wanted me to paint some large-scale murals for the inside of their main entrance vestibule and the lounge but I didn’t really know how to go about doing that. Plus it takes me like three years to paint one of my normal paintings because again I only paint on Sundays. So instead of doing the murals I painted mini-murals and had the movie theater just print them off large-scale and stick them up. Cool huh? I also recently painted the Brewers LIVE in the baseball stadium. That’s right, I went out of my element and into the Brewer’s world and I painted them LIVE, on the scene, in plain air, just like the impressionists. It sure was hard but I got some great action paintings, you can really sense the energy emanating from the colors I used in my work.

One of Weber's Brewers paintings painted LIVE

Cw: So whats next for you Buck?
Bw: Well it seems like the next logical move for me is to start painting dogs. I recently saw a show of photography called “Dogs” at the Waukesha Historical Museum that featured photographs of dogs. I felt really inspired by these photos and I’ve realized no one’s every really thought about capturing a dog’s true personality in a painting. So thats my next challenge! (laughs)